It is well known that many disciplines and best practices are required to successfully manage Information Technology (IT) but, another critically important ingredient is required to be most successful. Project, change, problem, security, resource and operations management are just a few of the required disciplines necessary for managing IT governance, planning, implementation, support, monitoring, and evaluation are part of the established frameworks such as ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) and COBIT (Control Objectives for Information and Related Technologies).
We know many if not most, organizations use these practices but we also know some are more successful than others. What accounts for this? What is the “secret sauce”? Is there some “right stuff” that is the catalyst for the greatest success beyond just adopting and executing these frameworks? A critical success factor is recognizing that managing IT is a “race” and understanding what that means.
Managing IT can be considered as consisting of a series of different types of races - sprints, marathons and relay races. Responding to an operational issue or emergency requires a sprint race to quickly resolve the issue. IT projects which may span many months or more than a year requires a marathon race. Many IT activities rely on a relay race where certain IT tasks are dependent on completion of tasks from another IT specialist (e.g. network specialist or DBA) before the next task can be completed by another IT specialist (e.g. application specialist).
"A critical success factor is recognizing that managing IT is a “race” and understanding what that means"
As with any race, preparation and speed are important. For the IT races, having the appropriate resources in place with the appropriate training and testing are important for success. Speed is essential in resolving a critical IT issue and bringing IT projects to completion on-time requires the appropriate speed and orchestration of the team.
But, what about how you run the IT race? Having Respect for our teammates, our internal and external customers and our vendors and partners is important even when we find ourselves in challenging, stressful situations. Having the right, positive attitude can make the difference between completing the race to a successful conclusion. Communications that are effective and timely between all appropriate stakeholders is critically important and communication problems can cause us to lose the race. Finally, empathy with other teammates, customers and partners can put ourselves in their shoes and can yield not only a better understanding of requirements, work effort and priorities but, also improve team building.
You may have noticed that the first letter of those words (Respect, Attitude, Communications, and Empathy) spell “RACE”. The concept of managing IT as a Race, and remembering what it means can be among the most important factors in completing the IT Race to a successful finish!